How should I do upper body exercises after thoracic surgery?

I would want patients to wait for three or four weeks before resuming upper body exercises after thoracic surgery. Start with 10 pounds and work your way back up gradually. It’s important to do a lot of stretching because you can get very tight after surgery, and you might be sore after exercising. If it hurts, that’s probably your body telling you that you shouldn’t do it. You need a gradual increase in flexibility and strength after surgery.

Dr. Daniel P. O'Hair, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

After thoracic surgery, upper-body exercises will help keep the muscles on the side where your incision is flexible. They also will help to prevent the loss of shoulder motion. Do these exercises slowly while sitting on a chair, three times a day. Do not hold your breath during these exercises.

  1. Shrug your shoulders up, and then relax.
  2. Pull shoulders back to bring the shoulder blades close together and then forward to bring shoulder blades far apart, and then relax.
  3. Do shoulder circles in both directions.
  4. Lift arms in front and above your head, keeping elbows straight, and lower. Reach back with your arms as far as possible, keeping elbows straight, then lower.
  5. Lift arms in front to shoulder level, spread them apart, bring them together, and lower palms up and touch hands above the head, then lower. Be sure to keep elbows straight.
  6. Lift arms out sideways to shoulder level, turn palms up and touch hands above the head, then lower. Be sure to keep elbows straight.
  7. Clasp hands behind the back, slide them up and down the backbone, and return them to your lap.
  8. Walk the arm of the operated side up a wall for a good stretch.
  9. Clasp hands behind the neck. Bring elbows together and apart.
  10. Keep your back firmly against the chair back. Hold your arms forward at shoulder level with elbows straight. Reach arms forward as if to touch a wall several inches beyond the fingertips and then pull arms back.
  11. With a firm seat on the chair, hands on hips, twist upper body to the right and then the left, then relax.
  12. With a firm seat on a chair, bend to one side and then the other, and relax.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.